During the third run-through, Rakna almost wondered if it had been a good idea to go through the fiendish difficulty. Every single one of the enemies was now almost as strong as the mantis in hard mode.
Though, in the end, the only thing that changed was the time it took to kill them, otherwise, both the result and the process had been the same. The experience however was completely different. Most of the monsters were above level 13.
After going through the three first floors, he had both leveled up to 17 and almost reached 18. He now had nine attribute points saved and the many hearts he had consumed from them had raised his attributes by around 0.5.
‘I should be able to get pretty close to level 20 with this Dungeon,’ Rakna thought as he entered the fourth floor. This one should have been filled with centipedes, ready to burrow themselves inside the walls at his arrival.
But what was presented to him instead was an empty corridor. Rakna would have normally been confused about the situation if instead, his instinct hadn’t suddenly begun to scream at him.
He reflexively transformed into a werewolf when he heard something above him. His black hole-like eyes spiraled until they turned golden and he lifted Sonata as fast as he could. The ceiling collapsed immediately after and the blade of the Guandao struck the giant claw-like structures of a giant centipede’s mouth.
Rakna shuddered unconsciously and reinforced both himself and his weapon. He grabbed his weapon with both hands and pushed the monster aside before dashing further inside the corridor.
The centipede didn’t follow him but clawed at the ground, which easily gave up, and disappeared underground like an actual mole.
‘What is this thing? It’s even stronger than the mantis,’ Rakna thought as he looked around.
[A Hidden Boss,] Alexa said. [It is a Boss that appears when certain conditions have been met. In this case, I would posit that you made it appear by gassing the home of the centipedes of this floor every time you came.]
“Really now,” Rakna scowled and gestured at Pronos who was on his shoulder, still a bit shocked by what had just happened. “Use your poison. I don’t think it will kill it but it should not be useless.”
The little snake nodded and jumped toward one crevasse in the wall and breathed out the greatest poison he could produce. The effects made themselves clear when they heard a sudden movement behind the walls and dust falling.
But, as expected, whatever was making that noise didn’t seem to be about to die. Rakna was even ready to bet that it was merely a bit annoyed by the poison. He clicked his tongue and conjured his Cold Mist, saturating the entire volume of the floor.
He then concentrated on what his senses were picking up and a minute later, he shoved his glaive into the wall next to him. However, what happened next was completely out of his expectations. Not only did his attack hit absolutely nothing but the ground behind him caved in to reveal the large insect.
Thankfully, his Soul Core and Eyes of the Soul accorded him enough urgency to boost his reaction time by many folds. He crouched in the split of a second and the monster whizzed above him, its poison glands dripping with visible venom.
It hit the wall and burrowed itself again and in the time that it took for it to get completely inside, Rakna cast Appraisal which was followed by a surprising notification.
❮ ◈ ❯
The target has a counter-scan skill.
Appraisal’s level is too low.
The assessment has failed.
❮ ◈ ❯
‘That’s a first. That must be part of the reason why I failed to sense its real position,’ Rakna remarked inwardly and as he stood up from his previous posture, he turned Sonata into a dual chain blade.
“Pronos, I will try to stop it the next time it comes. Take the occasion to poison it.” The little snake nodded and used Camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and kill his presence.
Rakna breathed in and closed his eyes to focus on whatever he could pick up. The tremors of the ground, the variations of air from the cracks in the walls, the mana fluctuations…
❮ ◈ ❯
Tracking has leveled up!
Mana Sense has leveled up!
❮ ◈ ❯
With his eyes still closed and his soul empowering his instinct, he stepped silently to the side as the centipede emerged from the ground to his left. He then opened his eyes wide and waved his hand downward as cold energy emanated from his body.
“[Swords of Liberation,]” he uttered and three cold azure swords descended and stabbed the centipede across its exposed length. It released an ear-wrenching cry and Rakna promptly stabbed it with one of the kusarigama’s blades before using the other to wrap the chain around its neck and mouth-parts.
Rakna gritted his teeth as he pulled on the chain and felt the arthropod’s body slowly building up mana; though it had no element, it could still reinforce its body. The Swords of Liberation were already starting to disintegrate when Pronos jumped out from his hiding spot and sunk his fangs into the monster’s body.
The Eion Poison was released in high density and quantity and the centipede started wriggling to escape. The swords eventually gave out and Rakna nearly let go. It seemed that even his strength as a werewolf wasn’t enough to compare to this centipede.
“[Spike,]” he intoned right before he was about to lose his grip on Sonata. The invisible ring on his finger flashed and a spike of earth raised from underground and pierced the centipede right in its head but it apparently was enough to break its defense completely.
At that moment, where it was being held by the spike, Rakna let go of the chain and grabbed the scythe that he had used to stab the monster. He yanked it with both hands and growled as he opened a massive gash on its body. He invoked a ball of raw cold energy in his hand and shoved it inside the wound; freezing its internals.
At the same time, Pronos bit it for a second time. The centipede struggled for a while until it finally stopped moving and turned limp. Piles of Talys materialized from its corpse along with two Items.
❮ ◈ ❯
You have killed a Lv.20 Blood Centipede!
You have leveled up!
+ 1 Free Point!
Requirement updated: 7/180
You have defeated the Hidden Boss of the Seed Grotto!
Number of Participants: 1 | Average Level of Participants: 17
Rewards: 1 000 Talys, 2 Free Attribute Points, ‘Absolute Cover’ Skill Card, ‘Centipede Venom’ Skill Card.
You have cleared the Fourth Floor.
❮ ◈ ❯
Rakna staggered back with a grunt and the monster fell to the ground with the other half of its body still buried. Pronos also distanced himself and sprawled his body in respite.
“Seriously… Is this still considered luck?” Rakna grumbled and disengaged the Cold Mist.
He reverted to his therian form and sat down on the ground to recover his breath. He cracked his neck and was pleased to see he had gotten 2 Attribute Points from killing this boss along with two skill cards. He checked the details of both immediately. If he hadn’t guessed wrong, one of those two would be providence for him.
❮ ◈ ❯
Ability Skill Card: Use it to learn the skill ‘Centipede Venom’.
Requirements: Poison Secretion, Poison Resistance.
The potency of a centipede’s venom generally varies depending on its size. A small one could probably induce a large variety of symptoms but they would not be threatening unless the victim was vulnerable to it.
On the other hand, at its most potent state, the centipede venom causes incredible pain to the poisoned individual as well as many sorts of perilous symptoms. Without sufficient resistance, it could lead to internal bleeding, cardiac arrest, severe necrosis, etc…
Through using this skill card, the user will gain the ability to produce this poison.
❮ ◈ ❯
“I see. I’m lucky I didn’t let myself be touched by its stingers,” Rakna muttered and threw the card at Pronos who caught it with his tail. “Can you learn that?”
The little snake looked at the incantation and tilted his head before opening his mouth and hissing somewhat consistently until the card merged with his body.
Rakna snorted then looked at the card that interested him the most.
❮ ◈ ❯
Support Skill Card: Use it to learn the passive skill ‘Absolute Cover’.
Absolute Cover is an anti-type skill. Its primary function is to protect the user from any external sensing or inspection made through another skill.
At level one, Absolute Cover will block any attempt to access the user’s status if the other party’s level is lower than two times the user’s level or if the attempt is made over a distance of fifty meters from the user’s location.
Otherwise, the user can choose something to hide in particular in his status. There is a definite limit to how much can be hidden based on the user’s inherent abilities.
Current Limit Allowed: Calculation Pending.
Additional Effect: Passively increase the effectiveness of furtivity skills by 50%.
❮ ◈ ❯
“Hmm, this skill has quite the specific working conditions but overall, it’s a skill that can save me a lot of trouble with hiding my race,” Rakna muttered. “Calculation pending… I suppose I need to learn it for it to begin.”
“[My Vow to Secrecy is my Oath to the Obscurities. The Absolute Authority of this Cover Shall be the Robe Haunting my Quarries,]” he intoned the words written on the card and assimilated it in no time; which was followed by a scrolling System window.
❮ ◈ ❯
Calculation has begun.
…Appraisal Lv.5 has been noted.
…Eyes of the Soul Lv.15 has been noted.
…Soul Core Lv.3 has been noted.
…Cold Star Magic Lv.3 has been noted.
…Nine-Tailed Werewolf Mystic Magic Power has been noted.
…S+ Potential has been noted.
…Luck has been noted.
Your limit has been set at 12 elements.
❮ ◈ ❯
“Well, that’s interesting… Alexa, what does it mean by ‘elements’?”
[A status’ element is any particular information it contains. A skill, an attribute, a title, the Path, the Race are all counted as an element independently.]
“So, I can hide only twelve, huh?”
[…affirmative.] Alexa resolved to not comment on the fact that the word ‘only’ had no place in that sentence. The average Host would have barely gotten two or three. [Please tell me what elements you want to hide and I shall establish them for you.]
Rakna mused and came to a decision, “Hide the following elements; Path, Race, Mystic Magic, The Harvester, The Scavenger, Shape Shift, Luquila’s Wings, Flight, Fabled Sight, Attack, Legendary Slayer, and to be sure, Smell of the Wolf God.”
[Acknowledged. These will never appear on an inspection of your status. You can change them as you please or add more when you are able to.]
Rakna grunted positively and stood up. He walked up to the dead centipede and temporarily shape shifted to dig it out. He then stared at it with the peculiar vision that his Nirvana Skill gave him and noted that this monster had three hearts.
‘I wonder…’ He thought inwardly and pulled them all out before eating them. After half a minute of absorption, his attributes had increased by around 0.25 on average. It seemed that he had indeed absorbed the equivalent of three hearts at once.
“All right,” Rakna collected the Talys and the two Items dropped by the centipede as well as the latter’s body since a Hidden Boss might be worth something. “Let’s wrap up this Dungeon so I can check the loot I’ve gotten,” he said and retrieved Sonata. He walked to the exit of the floor that had been opened the boss’ death and went down the stairs.
“Alexa, assign 1.1 to Speed and 2.3 to Dexterity,” he said as he reached the fifth floor. “Let’s get this done, little guy,” he told Pronos before rushing into the swarm of giant flying bugs.
* * *
Half an hour later, Rakna was stepping on the dead body of the praying mantis. After increasing his attributes, defeating it was quite easy in his werewolf form and the only thing that had changed from the previous fight was that it had been able to use tornado-like magic. It also obviously had stronger attributes and a higher level. After killing it, his level now sat at 19 and Pronos’ at 16.
❮ ◈ ❯
You have killed a Lv.18 Praying Mantis.
Requirement for level up updated: 54/190
You have completed Seed Grotto!
Number of Participants: 1 | Average Level of Participants: 19
Rewards: 600 Talys, 1 Free Attribute Point, ‘Jade Rouse’ Skill Card, ‘Wind Incision’ Skill Card, Tier 9 Healing Pill x3
❮ ◈ ❯
With this, he gained a duplicate for Wind Incision and a new magic skill card; the same one that Aquila had used in their fight. Then, there were the healing pills that seemed to essentially be a more expensive alternative to healing potions. The best thing about is that it acted a lot faster.
After collecting everything and eating the mantis’ heart, Rakna left the Dungeon and stretched under the afternoon sun as Pronos took his spot under his scarf to rest. He then started heading back to Gaelius’ settlement while making a quick inventory of everything he had gotten from the Dungeon.